Bone-anchored hearing systems are a surgically implanted treatment for hearing loss. Unlike hearing aids, which amplify sounds to a level the inner ear can hear, they work by conducting soundwaves through bone to reach the inner ear. Because of this, bone-anchored hearing systems are used to treat specific types of hearing loss.
How Do Bone-Anchored Hearing Systems Work?
Bone-anchored hearing systems are made up of two parts: a titanium bone implant and an external sound processor. The sound processor contains a microphone that picks up soundwaves that are then converted to vibrations that pass through the implant to the skull and jaw bones. These vibrations make their way to the inner ear, stimulating the hair cells and firing the auditory nerve.
Who Do Bone-Anchored Hearing Systems Benefit?
Candidates for bone-anchored hearing systems must have at least one functioning inner ear, as this is a requirement for the devices to be effective. Candidates may either have conductive hearing loss – which is caused by a malformation in the outer or middle ear that prevents soundwaves from passing through – or single-sided deafness.
Malformations in the ear may be present at birth, like narrowing of the ear canal or malformed pinna (outer ear), or the result of trauma. Bone-anchored systems work by bypassing these problem areas and stimulating the inner ear through other channels.
Single-sided deafness (SSD) is a condition where a person has lost all or most of the hearing in one of their ears. SSD makes it difficult to determine the direction sound is coming from and to understand speech in noisy environments. Bone-anchored devices correct this problem with one discreet device.
How Is Surgery Performed?
Bone-anchored hearing systems require an outpatient surgical procedure in which an ENT physician places a 3-4 mm titanium implant into the mastoid bone behind the ear. The implant may have a small abutment to which the sound processor attaches via magnet or clip. Over time, the implant integrates with the bone.
The exact nature of the operation depends on which manufacturer you and your physician choose. As an example, Oticon Medical utilizes minimally-invasive Ponto surgery (MIPS) which takes about 15 minutes to perform under local anesthesia. Recovery takes a day or two before returning to regular activities.
The skull and skin must be fully healed before the sound processor can be connected, which can take from three weeks to three months. Once attached, it is programmed to your unique hearing loss.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the experts at ENT of Athens today.